Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Q&A: LINDA GILMORE


Today, we converse with Linda Gilmore, a writer and editor who hails from Kansas. She blogs regularly at Musings from the Windowsill, is a member of FIRST, and has had several short stories published online:

Infuze Magazine:
"Making Up for Lost Time"
"Confessions of A Christian Mom"
"In Transit"
"Long Way Home"

Flashing in the Gutters:
"Thy Brother's Life"

Dragons, Knights and Angels:
"The Man Who Kept a Dragon in the Basement"

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WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
Attrocious. I do most of my writing on weekends since I leave the house at 6:30 a.m. and don't get back until 6 p.m. (hour commute each way). Sometimes I write in the evenings, but not consistently. I'm more likely to sit on my bed and write in my notebook -- ideas, snippets of stuff, blog entries -- than sit at the computer.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" OR "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
The novel I wrote and the novel I started for NaNo have outlines -- rather loose outlines, but I do sort of map out where the story is going. For short stories, it's much more make-it-up-as-I-go. I've noticed with short stories that it's more of a discovery process, but I can usually see the story arc in my mind when I start. The stories that have flowed the best have been that way, at least.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR STORIES?
That they want more about the characters. If I can write characters that people care about, I feel like I've done something right. Someone also told me recently that a story of mine he read really stayed with him. That was nice. I'd like to write the kind of stories and books that have some lasting quality, but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking I'm some kind of literary writer.

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR STORIES?
People have been very kind, for the most part -- even people who aren't related to me. An editor who rejected my novel gave me some helpful comments, so I don't think that counts negatively. But a story I wrote recently (not published) did get some negative comments from a relative -- I wasn't surprised, though, because it's a darker story than most of what I've written so far. The comment was to the effect that the story didn't show my Christian worldview enough. Like I said, it's a dark story, so I'm not surprised.

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ A MONTH?
That varies a lot. I like to read both fiction and nonfiction, so sometimes I'll read a couple of novels as well as a nonfiction book in a month. I also read a lot of magazine articles -- I like good journalism, so I read my Atlantic from cover to cover every month, as well as other articles I print out. My reading really goes in spurts, though.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?)
I think the promise of intriguing characters really grabs me. I like mysteries, and I used to read a lot of them, but I read less now -- I think because I've become disillusioned with a lot of series fiction. Authors I used to really enjoy now just seem to be cranking out their books with little attention to plot or character development or even good grammar. If I'm reading the dust jackets of books in the library, the ones that grab me usually have a combination of interesting characters and original story line.

Recent reads I enjoyed a lot:
Bad Ground by Dale Cramer
Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines
Deliver Us from Evelyn by some guy named Chris Well. :)

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Quit daydreaming and start writing. Don't think you're too old. I was 40 (or thereabouts) when I started writing my novel. I worked on it, off and on, for four or five years, but once I finished it, I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I'll probably never earn a living as a writer, but I'm so glad I sat down and started getting my ideas on paper. The more I write, more ideas I have, too. It's fun. And God seems to be opening doors for me to write more, so that's an affirmation of the gift.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
That I probably know more about my story than I've put on paper. And that writing is a lot of work. And that getting published is a long-shot.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
Boy, I've found other writers to be really encouraging. I probably haven't been doing this long enough to be seriously misunderstood. My observation of the "edgy" wars, though, has convinced me that we need to be mindful of how we express ourselves to each other. And we don't need to pass judgment on someone else because their writing looks different from ours.

FOR THE WRITER WITH A NEW BOOK, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING TO PROMOTE IT?
I have no experience in this. I've been learning a lot from what you do and from Tony Hines' approach to marketing. If ever I see a book with my name on it in print, I know I've got at least two people whose brains I can pick for ideas.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND JOINING AN AUTHOR GUILD?
I haven't. I've thought about joining ACFW, but haven't actually sent a check yet. I have some critique partners and a few willing readers -- but nothing formal. But I have learned a lot from hanging around Faith in Fiction, The Master's Artist, your blog, Gina Holmes' Novel Journey, and J. Mark Bertrand's blogs (to name a few).

WHEN CHOOSING FROM ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS AVAILABLE, WHAT TRAITS SHOULD A NOVELIST LOOK FOR?
I think it probably depends on what you want from a professional organization. I belong to a professional organization for extension communicators (ACE, which stands for The Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Family and Human Sciences. The name has gotten longer over the years!) and I benefit from the listserves and professional conferences. And the annual conference is a good opportunity to talk to other people who have jobs like mine.

I think a person should look for the same benefit from any professional organization -- opportunities to learn and grow, as well as connect with people who are doing what you're doing. If you're looking for a writer's organization, it's probably a good idea to talk to people who belong to the ones you're interested in and find out how useful they find those organizations. It seems there's a lot of good organizations out there -- it's just a matter of picking one (or more) that match your professional goals, interests and budget.

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Many thanks to writer Linda Gilmore. Find her online at Musings from the Windowsill and click on the links at the top to read her short stories online.

Related links:
Q&A: BRANDT DODSON (Seventy Times Seven)
Q&A: ERIC WILSON (The Best of Evil)
Q&A: JON L. BREEN (Eye of God)
Q&A: MELANIE WELLS (The Soul Hunter)
Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER (Widows & Orphans)
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